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Intonation of Emarati Arabic

Intonation of Emarati Arabic

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Published by: khaledrifaat on Oct 15, 2008
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06/16/2009

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An Initial Account of the Intonation of Emirati Arabic
 Allison Blodgett, Jonathan Owens, Trent Rockwood 
University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language
{ablodgett, jowens, trockwood}@casl.umd.edu
ABSTRACT
We conducted auditory and visual analyses of recordings of colloquial Emirati Arabic in order todevelop an autosegmental-metrical account of theintonation. Based on our analyses, we propose aninitial tonal inventory of two main pitch accents(i.e., H*, (LH)*), one downstepped variant (i.e.,!H*), and four bitonal phrase accents (i.e., LL%,LH%, HL%, HH%), which mark the right edges of intonation phrases. The data suggest that speakersproduce a pitch accent on every content word andcan use pitch range compression to define theposition of the perceptually most prominent pitchaccent within a prosodic phrase. The data furthersuggest that speakers can initiate and completecompression within a prosodic phrase and that theycan extend that compression across silent durationsto subsequent phrases.
Keywords:
Arabic, intonation, pitch rangecompression, prosody, spontaneous speech.
1.
 
INTRODUCTION
This paper is the first to present an analysis of theintonation of colloquial Emirati Arabic (EA). Itadds to a small, but growing, body of work on theintonation of different varieties of colloquialArabic. We use an autosegmental-metrical (AM)approach (see [5]) and describe a system of tonaltargets that are high or low with respect to oneanother and that vary in their alignments to text.We argue for an EA system that contains pitchaccents (i.e., tonal targets aligned with syllables)and phrase accents (i.e., tonal targets aligned withthe edges of higher levels of prosodic structure).Systems of intonation are language specific,and it is clear that colloquial varieties of Arabicvary in their intonation. For example, according to[4], Cairene Arabic speakers produce a pitchaccent on every content word and consistently usethe same rising accent. Other key features includepost-focal pitch compression and a single level of phrasing (i.e., the intonation phrase). In contrast,according to [2], Lebanese Arabic speakersproduce several different pitch accents and use atleast two levels of prosodic phrasing. Even if future work unifies these apparent differences inprosodic phrasing and pitch compression, the pitchaccent type differences are likely to be robust.Our account incorporates aspects of [4] and [2].As in Cairene, speakers accent every content word,use a single level of prosodic phrasing, and makeuse of pitch compression. In contrast to Cairene,however, EA resembles Lebanese in that speakersuse a variety of pitch accents.
2.
 
ANALYSIS2.1.
 
Corpus and approach
A cultural anthropologist, who is also a fluent,non-native speaker of colloquial Arabic, collectedthe speech sample in the city of al-‘Ain in theUnited Arab Emirates: two native speakers of EAtalking about topics of interest in an informalconversation. About one hour of speech wasrecorded in a quiet setting with a Sony PCM-M1DAT recorder (sampling rate 48 kHz) and aunidirectional Sony ECM-MS907 condensermicrophone. About 20 minutes of speech wereanalyzed.Using Praat [1], we listened to utterances whileobserving a waveform, spectrogram, fundamentalfrequency (F0) contour, and time-alignedtranscriptions. The two researchers who are fluentnon-native speakers of colloquial Arabic markedthe transcriptions with syllable and wordboundaries, lexical stresses (marked with an “x”),and glosses. We searched for distinct F0 contoursand then for multiple occurrences of those patterns.As in [4] and [2], we have adopted notationalconventions common to ToBI (tone and break indices) systems. We represent pitch accents withasterisks that indicate a tonal target aligning with asyllable. (Lexical stress in Arabic is predictable,and pitch accents generally align with thosestressed syllables.) We represent intonation phraseboundaries with percent signs (%), which we useto mark a phrase’s right edge.We recognize our account likely contains gaps.Because we used conversational speech, EA could
ICPhSXVI
ID 1272
Saarbrücken, 6-10 August 2007
1137
 
contain elements that our speakers had no cause toproduce. We might also have overlooked patternsthat did not readily contrast with other contours orthat were obscured by dysfluencies, overlaps inspeech, or background noise.
2.2.
 
Pitch accents
In this section we provide figures and utterancesmotivating particular pitch accents.
2.2.1.
 
 H*/!H* on every content word 
Figures 1 and 2 contain examples of longerintonation phrases that vary audibly and visibly inslope. In each case the lexically stressed syllablesof content words generally align with pitch peaks,suggesting high tonal targets. We attribute dips inthe F0 contour to segmental perturbations (e.g., atthe /d/ in
doora
in Figure 1) or to sag between hightargets across intervening unstressed syllables.
Figure 1:
H* pitch accent on every content word.
Figure 2:
H*/!H* pitch accents in sloping contour.
We represent the flat contour as a series of H*tones and the sloping contour as a series of hightones downstepped (!H*) relative to precedingtones.
1
Figures 3 and 4 provide shorter examples of these flat and sloping contours in two utteranceswith similar stress patterns. Additional work isneeded to show to what extent this apparentdownstep is pragmatically and/or perceptuallycontrastive for
native
speakers of EA.
Figure 3:
Example of H* H* sequence.
Figure 4:
Example of H* !H* sequence.
2.2.2.
 
(LH)*
Figures 5, 6, 7, and 9 contain examples of aperceptible fall and rise in pitch. In some cases, theF0 valley aligns with the stressed syllable (e.g.,Figures 5 and 6). In other cases, the F0 peak alignswith the stressed syllable (e.g., Figures 7 and 9).Because we have no evidence as yet that thesealignment differences are contrastive, we argue fora bitonal (LH)* pitch accent in which neither thelow nor the high anchors to the stressed syllable(as opposed to having a L*+H occur with strong-weak alternations and L+H* with weak-strong).
Figure 5:
First example of (LH)* pitch accent.
We note that the majority of our (LH)* tokensoccur as the sole or final pitch accent in anintonation phrase ending with a flat (HL%) orrising (HH%) boundary, as in Figures 6 and 9. In
ICPhSXVISaarbrücken, 6-10 August 20071138
 
fact, it might not be impossible to argue that
 ya’ni
 in Figure 5 is also phrase final.
Figure 6:
Second example of (LH)* pitch accent.
Figure 7 (in contrast with
na’am
in Figure 8)demonstrates that it is possible to find (LH)* in afalling intonation phrase (although
na’am
is bothphrase initial and phrase final in this example).
Figure 7:
Example of (LH)* LL% on
na’am
.
Figure 8:
Example of H* LL% on
na’am
.
We realize that a phrase initial rising pitch accent(like
na’am
in Figure 7) is known to be ambiguouswith H*, as the latter often involves a rise as well(e.g., Figure 8). A stronger (LH)* LL% examplewould involve a multisyllabic word with a weak-strong stress pattern. As shown in Figure 9, thisalternation provides room for a clear fall from themiddle of a speaker’s pitch range to a low targetbefore the rise to the high at the stressed syllable.Additional data is needed to determine whetherit is accidental that we have relatively fewexamples of (LH)* LL% and no clear examples of phrase medial (LH)*. In addition, at this time,there are no incontrovertible examples of adownstepped variant. While there are severalcandidate utterances, they suffer from twocomplications. For some, the apparent F0 valleycoincides with segments that consistently lower F0(e.g., pharyngeals). For others, the apparent F0valley coincides with unstressed syllables, which isa likely spot for a sag in F0 between high targets.
Figure 9:
Fall to (LH)* at the beginning of a phrase.
2.3.
 
Pitch compression
In the examples so far, the rightmost pitch accentin the phrase has been the accent perceived as themost perceptually salient in the phrase. However,the perceptually most salient pitch accent in Figure10 occurs mid-phrase on the accent that aligns withthe negative
ma
. In this case (and elsewhere in thecorpus and other varieties of Arabic, see [4]), pitchcompression immediately follows the most salientpitch accent, likely contributing to that percept.Note that compression does not seem confined to agiven intonation phrase. Figure 11 exemplifiespitch compression that extends across a silentduration to the following intonation phrase.We note that the pitch contour in Figure 11might suggest a H*+L accent that triggerscompression. However, we also raise thepossibility that compression can occur at thebeginning of utterances without a sharp fall. Thereare many examples similar to that in Figure 1 inwhich speakers produce utterance initial discourseparticles or fillers in a pitch range that appears tobe compressed relative to that which follows.Additional work is needed to identify thefunction(s) of compression. We hypothesize that asin many languages speakers use compression formultiple discourse functions, including signalingnarrow focus and generating higher-level discourseor narrative structure.
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